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Special Message

January 17, 1806

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

In my message to both Houses of Congress at the opening of their present session I submitted to their attention, among other subjects, the oppression of our commerce and navigation by the irregular practices of armed vessels, public and private, and by the introduction of new principles derogatory of the rights of neutrals and unacknowledged by the usage of nations.

The memorials of several bodies of merchants of the United States are now communicated, and will develop these principles and practices which are producing the most ruinous effects on our lawful commerce and navigation.

The rights of a neutral to carry on commercial intercourse with every part of the dominions of a belligerent permitted by the laws of the country (with the exception of blockaded ports and contraband of war) was believed to have been decided between Great Britain and the United States by the sentence of their commissioners mutually appointed to decide on that and other questions of difference between the two nations, and by the actual payment of the damages awarded by them against Great Britain for the infractions of that right. When, therefore, it was perceived that the same principle was revived with others more novel and extending the injury, instructions were given to the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at the Court of London, and remonstrances duly made by him on this subject, as will appear by documents transmitted herewith. These were followed by a partial and temporary suspension only, without any disavowal of the principle. He has therefore been instructed to urge this subject anew, to bring it more fully to the bar of reason, and to insist on rights too evident and too important to be surrendered. In the meantime the evil is proceeding under adjudications rounded on the principle which is denied. Under these circumstances the subject presents itself for the consideration of Congress.

On the impressment of our seamen our remonstrances have never been intermitted. A hope existed at one moment of an arrangement which might have been submitted to, but it soon passed away, and the practice, though relaxed at times in the distant seas, has been constantly pursued in those in our neighborhood. The grounds on which the reclamations on this subject have been urged will appear in an extract from instructions to our minister at London now communicated.


Thomas Jefferson, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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